Posted by: atowhee | February 23, 2018


to save life on this planet from what we have done to the atmosphere and climate?

We have made progress in the past 170 years but there is so much drag in the system, so much push for profit over reason…here’s what one progressive mind saw in 1849:

“In the relations of humans with the animals, and with the
flowers, with the objects of all Creation, there is a Great Ethic
scarcely as yet seen, but which will eventually break through
into the light and become corollary and complement to human
ethics …. Doubtless it was first necessary to civilize man in 
relation to fellow man…. However, it will now be necessary 
to civilize humans in relation to nature. And there … everything 
needs to be done.”

That same year both Marx and Darwin published their different, but revolutionary, works on life, both human and natural.

Posted by: atowhee | February 23, 2018


IMG_2768From photographer, Jeremy Black: There is a species of bird that’s actually called the yellow cardinal, but it’s neotropical and lives in South America.  

(If you enjoy our posts and would like to see them regularly, a good way is to “like” our page and then click on the little arrow in the upper right of your own page, choose “News Feed Preferences” from the menu, hit “Prioritize Who to See First” and click on The Naturalist’s Notebook. You also can visit our Facebook page and see every post. We’re thrilled that so many thousands of you are interested in nature and science. Feel free to spread the word! Our website is–Jeremy Black Photography

This bird is in Alabaster, Alabama.  A unusual occurrence, this is  not seen more than once per year in the U.S.
There are three words for this bird’s condition:
2. Flavism
3. Xanthochroism

Posted by: atowhee | February 23, 2018


Cold overnight.
7AM this morning it was 21 degrees; the Juncos are at feeder leavings from the day before.  Their calorie calculus must include a survival equation: minimum calorie intake required to maintain nexcessary body heat for survival.  In short, gimme calories. I generally feed sunflower seeds which are calorie and oil rich.  With the whole seeds the husks are rejected by the birds, leaving a layer of rejected husks.  Among the smaller birds even the shelled seeds are delicately peeled, leaving thin, pale skins lying about.  It becomes a fine, pale chaff.  On the ground it quickly becomes mulch.

730AM  Collared-doves and Golden-crowned Sparrows join the junco crowd.
739AM  Female Spotted Towhee arrives, male not seen yet.
806AM  Myrtle Warbler arrives, Black-capped Chickadee, squirrels and Golden-crowned Sparrows among the ubiquitous juncos.
820AM  In the garden the scrub-jay can be heard.  The overnight cold has frozen the grass, sun glints off the blades as if they were slender shards of glass.  Grass as glass.  While many of the tender plants droop under the icy hand of winter, the hardy artemesia is in full bloom and full strength.

848AM  Audubon’s Warbler shows up, flashing his bright yellow throat.
905AM First House Finch appears on feeder platform.  I scatter more seeds.  Almost immediately the juncos, sparrows and Myrtle Warbler reappear.  House Sparrow flies straight to the suet feeder.
1030AM  Bewick’s Wren, trio of Myrtle Warblers and lone Audubon’s Warbler flutter about.  The myrtles chase one another.

Flicker seen at the feeders.
Call him “Audie,” the handsome Audubon’s Warbler.  He eschews the myrtles.  They might as well be Killdeer for all he cares.

audieaudie2audie3BWTBewick’s butt above.  Myrtle at suet:MYRT-FACEThe male after he left his snug roost:S-T FLATTcold artyArtemesia above. The crowd gathers:crowd 2Grass shards in sunlight:ice lawn

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 23, 2018 7:00 AM. 12 species (+1 other taxa)

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  2
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata)  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  25
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  3
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  2
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | February 22, 2018


WE saw what we expected today, we three birders from McMinnville…and then we saw a Black Phoebe…one of those species expanding its range northward with climate change.  It would not have been around Forest Grove a hundred years ago.

High on the list of entertainers during our afternoon visit: 2 Bald Eagle kids (a yearling and a two-year-old) who kept frightening the geese and ducks and herons sending them into the air…and a air of feuding harriers who sparred in the air, just above the cattails, with talons pulsing…no blood shed as far as we could tell.GEES-EGL2Above image: geese above marauding eagle.  Below: the glory that is green-winged teal, out smallest dabbling duck.GWT-CLOSERNap time at snipe pond:SNIPE-THREE

Fernhill Wetlands (general), Washington, Oregon, US
Feb 22, 2018 2:05 PM – 3:35 PM.  23 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  X
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)  2
Mallard (Northern) (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos/conboschas)  X
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  X
Green-winged Teal (American) (Anas crecca carolinensis)  X
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  2
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  1
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  5
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  2
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  2
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  2
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  X
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  X
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  X
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Black Phoebe
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | February 21, 2018


There were dozens of robins in the ‘hood today.  That is the neighbrohood of Wennerberg Park.  I think the low elevation of snow cover in the nearby Coastal Range was probably what brought so many more down into the valley.  They were in the trees, in the clover field, on the lawns and ball diamonds, in the air.  A few even were singing.

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


FEB. 20-2018, McMinnville

The first bird at the feeders this morning was a lone Myrtle Warbler. Light snow was falling as he arrived at 755 AM.  Soon a small group of juncos came in along with the first of the Golden-crowned Sparrows. By 8AM there were at least 20 juncos and two of the sparrows, most feeding on the ground beneath the roof…out of the snow.  The juncos were flitting through the bushes. Wherever one landed on a flimsy branch, it loosed tiny avalanches.MYRT GLANCMYRT GLANC2MYRT GLANC3

Around 9AM the squirrel quartet arrived to pig out on the sunflower seeds.  Their maneuvers and fussing with one another for position on the feeders disconcerted the birds.  Tbhe Myrtle Warbler returned just as the first House Sparrows showed up.  In a few minutes the only Audubon;s Warbler came in and fed.  The towhee pair arrived next.

The snowfall increased, stopping finally around 10AM but the day was too warm for the snow to last.IMG_3859IMG_3860

Late in the morning both the Bewick’s Wren and two Black-capped Chickadees arrived.  By 1220PM a Downy Woodpecker was present, not a bird that I see daily but occasionally.  It may have a larger home territory than the smaller birds who are often at the feeders several times per day or just hang around continuously (like the juncos and sparrows).

In mid-afternoon a friend and I sat at his kitchen table with feeders just outside the near window.  Red-breasted Nuthatch pair, juncos, Bewick’s Wren and a single Myrtle’s Warbler all showed up.  He’s seen a Song Sparrow  recently but it was not present at that time. The wren:bw outsidbw-boldThe tail tells the tale, up or down, tilted, waved or vibrated–a message in each tail couple:RBN CAGEThis must be a paired pair as nuthatches are not known to be generous with one another unless there is … a relationship.RBN GLANC3RBN GLANC4rfbn glanc5

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


If you are willing to stand up for environmental action you face some serious danger in today’s America.

Edward Abbey would not be surprised as the fossil fuel industry and its subservient pols bend over backwards to keep the oil and gas flowing as we try to heat up our planet even further.

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


Three new titles worth of consideration.  If you are a serious gardener, and you don’t want to simply cover every surfaced with toxic chemicals, here’s a book that helps you know your enemy:
Garden Insects of North America. Second Edition.
By Whitney Cranshaw and David Shetlar.  704 pages!   3300 color photos!!   $35.PRINCBK3
Not just the insects but also their eggs, their larvae, the damage they do and what it looks like.  Here is what a typical page looks like:GRDN BUGSSo this book is more than a source of identification.  It helps with diagnosis and treatment.  Clearly it is often necessary to look on the under-side of the leaf…

Monarchs and Milkweed.
Bu Anurag Agrawal.  283 pages, over 70 illustrations.PRINCBK2
This  book describes the close connection between monarchs and milkweeds, which are poisonous to people and some other animals.  The plant and the butterfly have been engaged in eons of evolutionary struggle, one to resist and the other to overcome that resistance.  Now even the monarch itself can be toxic to some predators…if the milkweed only knew how it was actually helping the monarch.  Thus does coevolution continue.  Now it has has been disrupted by people and their pesticides.
Agrawal is optimistic about the monarchs’ future, pointing out they have expanded their worldwide range just as humans have carelessly scattered milkweed seeds expanding the range of those plants.  Wherever milkweed spreads, thither goes the monarch.  Some populations are migratory, others sedentary; whatever survival demands.

A Taste for the Beautiful. The evolution of attraction.
By Michael J, Ryan.  208 pages.  24 illustrations.PRINCE BK1
“The details of an animal’s brain give rise to its sexual aesthetics, which, in turn, drive the evolution of beauty in that species.  Specifically, I argue that beauty only exists because it pleases the eyes, ears, or noses of the beholder; more generally, that beauty is in the brain of the beholder.”
There is Ryan’s central argument.  His book expands, explains, gives numerous examples and samples.  He also tells how predators and parasites often use one species’ mating rituals or appearance to that species’ detriment.  The courtship activities explored include fireflies, guppies and birds.  With birds and crickets and frogs, naturally, a song is not JUST a song.  Fun and enlightening to read.

Posted by: atowhee | February 20, 2018


Led by first class passenger, EPA head Pruitt, the Trumpistas have been hell-bent on removing any barrier to corporate profit, especially those that might protect air, water, wildlife or even human health.  The anti-environment crusade of the current regime has not been always successful in court.

And there is now research that indicates some species may respond to climate change with evolutionary change which in turn could enable survival.  But let’s not get too enthusiastic because we now know the Permian extinction event was catastrophic and eliminated most species that had evolved up to that time.  The severity of the climate change still matters greatly for life on this planet.

Posted by: atowhee | February 19, 2018


Nora, the dog, and I were overlooking the Merlot Marsh in north McMinnville this morning.  Up in the sky I noticed a mature Bald Eagle.  The sunlight reflected off the clean white and warm brown feathers, making the bird glow before the soft blue sky. As the big bird circled and soared, it moved in front of cottony white clouds.  As he moved along Baker Creek he suddenly back-flapped his large wings, then settled down onto a perch in the top of the tallest tree along the

In the marsh I heard a single song from a Song Sparrow.  Several measures of pure music compared to the short ditty sung daily now by the male Red-winged Blackbirds. Nearby one female red-wing seemed to be attending to the concert:rw woman

Down on No Name Pond there had been a gathering of Pintails.  Last time I visited there had been only a single pair.  Today at least ten.

The overnight weather had been both cold and wet.  On the east-facing slope of Coast Range foothills I could see the thin sheet of snow that extended down below a thousand feet in elevation.  Thus, the first time this winter.  It had snowed in the valley but as the snow dropped it soon melted away.  Yet snow drops of the living kind were in abundance in some gardens this sno1IMG_3844IMG_3707On the ground hoard frost lingered in shaded spots.  Each symmetrical crystal was joined to many others in an asymmetrical pattern that would make a surrealist’s daydream:IMG_3851

In our garden we were visited by a single Myrtle Warbler, hours later a lone Audubon’s.  I am now noticing that when I see scrub-jays in the ‘hood, they are mostly in pairs now. Also the House Finches that come daily finally agreed to pose for a picture or two:hf on flathf on flat2

Merlot Marsh–private land, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 19, 2018 10:40 AM – 10:50 AM.  9 species

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X

Pinot Noir Drive NW, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Feb 19, 2018 10:50 AM – 11:25 AM.  15 species

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1     same bird seen from Merlot Marsh earlier
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  3
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (Colaptes auratus [cafer Group])  1
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  6
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (Junco hyemalis [oreganus Group])  X
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  12
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  X

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